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I'd never been aware how beautiful my house is until I saw it burning, my schoolmate told me, who had twenty pieces of shrapnel that remained deep under his skin after the war. He wrote me how at the airport he enjoyed having upset the customs officials who couldn't understand why the checkpoint metal detector howled for no reason. I had never been aware I was a nation until they said they'd kill me, my friend told me, who'd escaped from a prison camp only to be caught and raped by Gypsies while she was roaming in the woods. Then they sold her to some Italian pimps who tattooed the owner's brand and number on her fist. She says you cannot see it when she wears gloves. I recognized them in a small town in Belgium. They were sitting and watching the river carry plastic bags, cans, and garbage from the big city. She was caressing the hard shrapnel lumps through his shirt and he was caressing her glove. I wanted to say hello and give them a jolly photograph from the times when none of us knew the meaning of House and Nation. Then I realized that there was more meaning in the language of silence in which they were seeing off the plastic bags down the river than in the language in which I would have tried to feign those faces from the old photograph that shows us all smiling long ago.
Copyright 2020 Goran Simić
Goran Simić, 68, was born in Bosnia and has published twenty volumes of poetry, ten puppet plays, two collections of stories, and three opera libretti. Poetry collections include New and Selected Sorrows, poems (Smokestack Books, Canada, 2015) and Sprinting from the Graveyard, poems (Oxford, 1997); his work has been translated into a dozen languages and published all over Europe. Simic survived the siege of Sarajevo. He emigrated to Canada in 1995. In 2006, he founded Luna Publications in Toronto, and in the same year joined the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of The University of Guelph. In 2013, Simić returned to live in Sarajevo.